Blight is the debut novel from author Tom Carlisle. A traditional gothic novel, it has elements of horror, the arcane, and furtive goings-on. Blight is the perfect read for this time of year and would appeal to fans of modern writers like T. Kingfisher or Susan Hill or lovers of classic gothic novels. If you (like me) are a partaker of Neil Gaiman’s ‘All Hallows’ Read,’ Blight should be a contender for you to curl up with.
Set in the late 19th Century, Blight follows James Harringley as he is summoned to return to his ancestral home in the North of England. Against his better judgement, James comes home and has to face everything he has tried to forget. His father, formerly a fearsome man of strength and principle, seems to be losing his mind. His younger brother, Edward, attempts to keep up appearances and save the family’s reputation. And the Tall Man, something James has been desperately trying to forget, has taken another child.
I enjoy a gothic novel, and that is squarely where I would put Blight in terms of genre. Carlisle has put everything I love from gothic fiction in Blight. There are elements of the supernatural, a sustained sense of unease, and past traumas haunting the present. If I were to write a checklist for tropes of gothic fiction, Blight has them all. But Carlisle has done this very well. It can hold its own next to the classics while feeling like a new tale. Blight is a homage to the great gothic novels, not a copy. This story is not a retelling of something you have read before, and Carlisle’s twists and turns in Blight kept me engaged until the end.
Blight is a relatively short novel at just over three hundred pages, and it is well-paced. James is a well-written and relatable protagonist, which is essential as Blight is James’ journey of discovery. The plot is unpredictable, which means that the ending has some very satisfying surprises to it. There are some disturbing moments, and Carlisle is very good at playing with our fear of the unknown to keep the reader in a permanent state of discomfort rather than relying on sudden outbursts of overly explicit and extended violence.
Blight is described as an ‘uncanny folk horror,’ which is true, but this folk tale has nothing whimsical or cute about it. The novel might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Blight will appeal greatly to some of our readers. Autumn is the perfect time to hide from the wind and the rain with a good gothic novel, and Blight is definitely that. Thank you very much to the Titan team and Tom Carlisle for sending Blight over.